Rankings: The gate crashers

Dave Doyle
Yahoo! SportsJanuary 21, 2010

As any mixed martial arts fan can tell you, we're in the middle of a three-month stretch during which no Top 10 fighters compete.

But that doesn't mean there has been a lack of quality battles in the rings and cages.

Five fighters ranked between Nos. 11-18 in last month's poll saw action since Dec. 31, and all five showed why they're breathing down the necks of MMA's elite. The lineup:

• Japanese lightweight Shinya Aoki scored a quick submission win over Mizuto Hirota on Dec. 31 in Saitama. Aoki, unfortunately, made more news for getting in Hirota's face and making obscene gestures after the victory than for his in-ring performance.

• Former WEC featherweight champ Mike Brown laid out the blueprint for what every fighter should do after a bad loss: Shake it off and get right back into it. Brown, two months removed from his lopsided title loss to Jose Aldo, submitted Anthony Morrison in Sacramento, Calif., on Jan. 10.

• The man Brown beat for the title, Urijah Faber, also returned Jan. 10 and scored an impressive third-round win over Rafael Assuncao. The man who put the WEC on the map was out of action for several months after breaking both hands in a loss to Brown.

• The highest-profile win over the past month went to former UFC champ Rashad Evans, who outlasted Thiago Silva at UFC 108. The former light heavyweight champ went back to his wrestling base to take the first two rounds, then survived getting rocked by Silva in the third and claimed a unanimous decision in his first fight back since losing the title to Lyoto Machida.

• And last but not least, Gegard Mousasi jumps from No. 11 to No. 10 after he made quick work of Gary Goodridge in Japan on New Year's Eve. Granted, a win over the 44-year-old Goodridge, who has lost his past five fights, doesn't seem like it should be the impetus for a push into the Top 10. But the Strikeforce light heavyweight champ has been knocking on the door for the past several months and has won his past 15 in a row, including 12 finishes in his last 13. Mousasi nudged Dan Henderson out of the 10th spot by a point.

The Yahoo! Sports Top 10 poll features 21 top mixed martial arts reporters from leading sports web sites, newspapers, wire services and blogs. For a list of this month's panel participants, go here.

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Mousasi

10. Gegard Mousasi
Points: 23
Affiliation: Strikeforce/M-1
Weight class: Light heavyweight (Strikeforce light heavyweight champion)
Hometown: Leiden, Armenia
Record: 28-2-1 (won past 15)
Last month's ranking: unranked
Most recent result: def. Gary Goodridge, R1 TKO, Dec. 31
Analysis:Fans have been patient with Strikeforce as the company builds out its roster. But a match between Mousasi and Henderson at light heavyweight should be considered a must later in the year.

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Bowles

9. Brian Bowles
Points: 40
Affiliation: WEC
Weight class: Bantamweight (WEC bantamweight champion)
Hometown: Athens, Ga.
Record: 8-0
Last month's ranking: 8
Most recent result: def. Miguel Torres, R1 TKO, Aug. 9
Analysis: While most await a Bowles-Miguel Torres rematch, Bowles can't overlook his March 6 challenger, Dominic Cruz, whose only loss in 15 fights is to Faber.

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Torres

8. Miguel Angel Torres
Points: 45
Affiliation: WEC
Weight class: Bantamweight
Hometown: East Chicago, Ind.
Record: 36-2 (lost last one)
Last month's ranking: 9
Most recent result: lost to Brian Bowles, R1 TKO, Aug. 9
Analysis: It's hard to picture Torres' next opponent, Joe Benavidez, matching Torres in the standup, but if Benavidez can get it to the ground, Torres could be in for a battle.

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Rua

7. Mauricio Rua
Points: 62
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Light heavyweight
Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil
Record: 18-4 (lost last one)
Last month's ranking: 7
Most recent result: lost to Lyoto Machida, unanimous decision, Oct. 24
Analysis: Biding him time until he gets his second shot at "The Dragon."

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Aldo

6. Jose Aldo
Points: 85
Affiliation: WEC
Weight class: Featherweight (WEC featherweight champion)
Hometown: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Record: 16-1 (won last nine)
Last month's ranking: 6
Most recent result: def. Mike Brown, R2 TKO, Nov. 18
Analysis: If you don't understand why Faber is getting the next shot at Aldo and not Brown, you probably shouldn't plan on getting into the fight promotion business.

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Machida

5. Lyoto Machida
Points: 117
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Light heavyweight (UFC light heavyweight champion)
Hometown: Belem, Brazil
Record: 16-0 (won last 16)
Last month's ranking: 5
Most recent result: def. Mauricio Rua, unanimous decision, Oct. 24
Analysis: Healing a hand injury before he begins training for Rua.

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Penn

4. B.J. Penn
Points: 147 (one first-place vote)
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Lightweight (UFC lightweight champion)
Hometown: Hilo, Hawaii
Record: 15-5-1 (won last two)
Last month's ranking: 4
Most recent result: def. Diego Sanchez, R5 TKO, Dec. 12
Analysis: Penn will be the prohibitive favorite against Frank Edgar on April 10, but then, Tyson Griffin and Sean Sherk were also expected to roll over Edgar.

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Emelianenko

3. Fedor Emelianenko
Points: 184 (six first-place votes)
Affiliation: Strikeforce/M-1 (never lost PRIDE title)
Weight class: Heavyweight
Hometown: Stary Oskol, Russia
Record: 31-1, one no-contest (won last 11)
Last month's ranking: 3
Most recent result: def. Brett Rogers, R2 KO, Nov. 7
Analysis: Fabricio Wedrum on April 17 should provide a decent, if not exactly blockbuster, challenge.

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St. Pierre

2. Georges St. Pierre
Points: 185 (four first-place votes)
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Welterweight (UFC welterweight champion)
Hometown: Saint-Isidore, Quebec
Record: 19-2 (won last six)
Last month's ranking: 2
Most recent result: def. Thiago Alves, unanimous decision, July 11
Analysis: If St. Pierre loses to Dan Hardy, it will be MMA's biggest upset since he lost to Matt Serra.

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Silva

1. Anderson Silva
Points: 196 (10 first-place votes)
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Middleweight (UFC middleweight champion)
Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil
Record: 24-4 (won last 10)
Last month's ranking: 1
Most recent result: def. Forrest Griffin, R1 KO, Aug. 8
Analysis: Title defense on April 10 against Vitor Belfort will be first UFC middleweight title match in nearly a year.

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Votes for others: Dan Henderson 22; Brock Lesnar 13; Urijah Faber , Quinton Jackson 8; Mike Brown 6; Shinya Aoki, Rashad Evans, Jon Fitch 4; Kenny Florian, Jake Shields 2; Frank Mir 1.

Upcoming matches for ranked fighters: None in February.

Last month's rankings

MMAWeekly's rankings